More Meaningful Engagements than Ever Before
It is so hard to wrap my head around the fact that we will be embarking on another new year!
While we are enduring another challenging time with scary illness swirling around us and our families, I have no doubt we will come out the other side stronger, more careful, and healthier. This year we will focus our programs, once again, on employment skills, social successes, parent empowerment, respite weekends and therapeutic offerings. Meeting each member where they are in growth and development.
As I wrap up my 6th year guiding UCR, our organizational leadership is thrilled to be recognized by the Gaithersburg-Germantown Chamber of Commerce as Small Business of the Year and be entered into the Business Hall of Fame as the Best Business Consultants of Derwood for three consecutive years!
While these are thrilling accomplishments and will help us secure more recognition and funding in the future, I am most excited by the growth of our family. More and more parents (and their loved ones) are reaching out and connecting with our programs. Many are comfortable calling to ask for a brainstorming session or help with behaviors/challenges they are experiencing. I am absolutely honored to be assisting families in this way!
Our list of community partners is also growing! Thank you to True Respite, VisArts, Dawson's Market, Levine School of Music, Mayorga Organic Coffee, Sol Azteca, Coughlin Transportation, SPIRIT Club, Montgomery County Therapeutic Rec., Olney Theatre, Villa Maya, Baronessa, Asheir Home Potomac, St. Patrick's Church, Hot Breads and several smaller community members who enrich our programming by offering their spaces and skills!
Bike to the Beach UCR Rockets team of 9
48 hours of Respite & Caregiver Club
50 Miles Pedaled for Bike to the Beach (whew)
106 In-Person Classes
118 Virtual Classes
237 Individual Donations
$13,000+ raised Bike to the Beach
$14,000+ raised Walk & Roll-a-thon Dance Party
Just a couple thoughts about how to discuss the events planned and surrounding the Inauguration. This is from my own personal experience with our family, my (behavior & trauma) training, and the hundreds of families I've counselled throughout the years. I am not a certified psychologist, just a mom with a psychology major, extensive experience with trauma from autism, behavior management experience and this crazy little thing called life.
Always remember that our young adults absorb our feelings and magnify them. Keeping calm or perceived calm will help our loved ones deal. If they see we are not worried about anything, they won't see the reason to worry. Conversely, if they see us crying, they are likely to fall apart.
Set aside time to talk about this every day. Bottling up lots of confusion and powerful visuals can lead to behaviors rooted in fear and chaos.
Limit access to media reports. I don't say this flippantly... really limit or don't even turn the news on. It is confusing enough for most of us, can you imagine how terrifying it is for our loved ones, who struggle to put their world together on "normal" days.
Fielding questions open and honestly is always the best policy, but that doesn't mean reveal every single detail. I would encourage these conversations with; "do you have any questions about what is happening in Washington?" Then wait. It could come out as silence or as one word: Scared. If that's the case validate their feeling and remind them they are safe because you are going to keep them protected. Acknowledge you are feeling the same. If the word is: why? Explain very basically the ideals of both sides. I always try to say there is very bad behavior and choices, but I hate to say there are "bad" people. There are many people I don't agree with and our family doesn't agree with, but we are not to judge who is "good" and who is "bad", if we can help it.
I tend to discuss everything in emotions, something very basic to all of us. Everyone has feelings. ALL feelings are OK!
"How does it feel when you are very frustrated?"
"Do you feel sad when people don't listen to you?"
(You could use visuals here with different facial expressions.)
"Do you have big feelings when you are angry?"
"Sometimes those emotions overflow and come out as tears or rage."
(You could use a crying and angry face together.)
"Sometimes I can be so angry I want to hit something."
"There are positive ways to deal with these big feelings."
"Hurting others is not how to deal with these feelings."
"Let's think about things to do when we have big feelings."
"Even adults can make quick and not-so-great decisions."
"Some people feel like they are not treated fairly."
"Nobody is perfect."
I tend to always answer with a reinforcement first, even if you don't agree. That looks like; "Thank you for sharing that honest feeling or it is amazing you can identify that feeling."
Then go into an answer that does not chastise or cut down anyone... remembering that hate and prejudice are taught.
"Many people feel like they are not heard and they want their voices heard. I don't agree with the violence, but that shows the intensity and depth of their big emotions too. We need to be able to listen and talk about our feelings."
Never condone violence, but offer other ways to solve problems.
Maybe discuss options.
I realize none of this is easy. I have those big feelings too and my emotions seem to flow out of my eyes daily. Feel all the feels and steel yourself for these conversations.
Hope this helps. I know many of our members are beyond this type of very simple language, but I find going back to the basic and roots of emotion is sometimes reassuring and easy.
Feel free to reach out to us at any time.
I'm here to help you.
The words "Happy New Year" carry some extra power, promise and positivity this year. But let's not forget perspective! We all have a choice of how we view our given situations.
Many people are looking back at 2020 as the "worst year ever", a year of loss and overwhelming fear. Here at UCR we hope you choose to acknowledge the darker times and loves lost, but also see tremendous growth, gifts of our presence and cherishing the simplicity of what's important: air in our lungs, big warm hugs and relationships.
Early on, we held kindness competitions, smiled at our joke of the day contests, and learned way too much about zoomie roomies and virtual programs. We eagerly awaited our next "log in" meeting to see our friends and realized that we can wear "jammies on the bottom" and no one will know! Hey, "I think you're muted!"
We were blessed with thousands of masks (sort of accidentally) and shared our excess PPE with partnering organizations across the county/state, created custom UCR masks, discovered new resources and provided hope & love through gorgeous note cards created by our members. Our large group socials still met online! Our virtual Fun & Games Night, Halloween Howl and Holiday Party nearly busted our Zoom account which only holds 100 people! I thoroughly enjoyed trying to paint during our new Caregivers' Club Create & Sip nights and enjoyed the kindness of fellow parents who tell me my creations look good! LOL!
Our Community Partner Restaurants were recognized by many of our County Councilmembers, even while dining in was on the outs.
Through it all, always held out hope that this pandemic would be over sooner rather than later. As the weeks turned into months, we worked harder and worked more. We discovered new back pains, hip pains and acquired blue screen glasses... but always moving forward to help each other.
Some programs moved virtual while some moved to 1:1 in-person. Covid tests, quarantines and clorox kept us healthy to tackle each new day minute by minute, hour by hour. New funding opportunities arrived, we were able to pay our amazing staff thanks to the PPP funds and donations from our supportive family.
I hope you will join me when I choose to look back at 2020 by recognizing the hard parts but focusing on gratitude and growth. Covid + technology has brought the world together in new and exciting ways. We can attend programs, new opportunities and welcome friends from around the country.
Our family is growing and stretching to stay engaged with every one of you.
Choose to see hope. Choose to see growth. Choose to see love. It is all around us!
2021 will be the Year of the HUG!
Hello UCR families and friends,
As we enter the holiday season where we focus on gifts and gratitude, I'd be remiss if I did not thank each and every one of you for the role you play within our UCR family! We've grown over the last 5 years in innovative, inclusive and joyous ways!
Whether you take part in a single program or you are very active with a variety of experiences and enrichment opportunities, please know you are so very important to us! I learn new things everytime I get to take part in or observe our unique programs. I am blessed and better, thanks to YOU!
To our members: thank you for making our family PASSIONATE and ENERGETIC. You are the most dedicated and genuine people on the planet. I cherish each of you, your creativity and your positive perspectives.
To our parents/caregivers: I understand and we are here for you! There are days when we all just need an ear to listen and understand. I've been honored to be that person for dozens of you. Never hesitate to reach out for anything... we truly are stronger together.
To our UCR employees & contractors: Without you, we are nothing. UCR is so thrilled to have found the most professional, talented and dedicated staff members. We are learning from your combined decades of experience with our complex community. You are so valued.
To all of our supporters & business partners: Thank you for generously supporting and growing our organization. It is such a joy to see our collaborations with dozens of community partners benefit the creation of our varied programming.
Thank you everyone for continuing to believe and trust UCR with your loved ones. Know that when they are away from you and with us, we are all one family.
With the most sincere gratitude & warm wishes,
Jenn Lynn, E.D.
This year’s angel sponsor of the UCR 5k Walk & Roll-a-thon is truly an ANGEL. Evan Finn Gardner spent his very short time on earth spreading love and joy with his expressive eyes and love of music.
Evan was a complicated little guy and stumped all of his doctors near and far. He never was given any specific diagnosis other than, “one of a kind”! Evan, grandson to UCR Board Chairman Dan Finn, loved being around people, ate too much applesauce, played with his older brothers and could not get enough hugs and kisses.
Music filled Evan’s life. I remember stories of his gramma Georgana rocking him endlessly while listening to Garth Brooks. Because his eyesight was limited, he used his keen senses of smell and hearing to discover his world. He loved the smell of the salty beach air and fit right into the beach scene with his long blonde locks.
We have no doubt Evan experienced the very depths of love and joy everyday he was on earth as a member of the generous and caring Finn-Gardner family. His purposeful yet short time here changed the lives of countless others too.
Thank you to the entire Finn family for sharing Dan and Georgana with UCR! Your faith and generosity in our unique programming helps us to enrich the lives of our angels here on earth!
Singing, dancing and clapping drowns out the sounds of the church bells weekly at St. Patrick's Church in Rockville. Joy fills the room as our adults excitedly learn and try out new instruments from different parts of the world, listen to the sounds they make and realize how music makes their bodies feel.
The fall session of Rhythm, Blues and Beyond started with a bang this fall, with attendance bursting at the seams. I've watched the members share a range of emotions as they listen to and make music from all genres including soul, funk, rock and much more. We've heard members, who struggle to speak, put lyrics together to the roaring applause of their classmates. They've become family and bond freely.
During a recent class, Levine School Music Therapist Emily Bruestle, MM, MT-BC, and our volunteer Marianne Greene, noticed the music was pulling one member in particular into the moment. L was happy and smiling as he clapped, hummed and moved to the music.
As class came to a close, Ms. Bruestle chose a calmer song to end the day. Everyone communicated their farewells as they locked eyes and waved to their their friends across the room. But one particular member just didn't want the class to end. Tears streamed down his face as he realized the end of class was near.
This member's mother told me her son struggles with the finality of good-bye's, since the family moved here and had to make that huge adjustment. Regardless, something in the music stirred his soul and we are so proud to be making such a difference in the lives of those we serve.
We could not impact so many lives without the support of so many wonderful families, corporations and county support.
As I complete my second year directing Upcounty Community Resources, Inc., I have to admit, I never knew my life could be so full! I tell folks who ask me about my job, that I’m blessed to be able to do God’s work; some laugh, some agree and some roll their eyes.
What other job could one have where they get to witness miracles everyday?
Whether it’s tolerating loud music, playing a new percussion instrument, walking one more lap around the lake, getting sticky glue on fingers or just being in a big group of people, these are all huge accomplishments that I don't take lightly.
As a parent of a child with great challenges, I know how hard some days can be, but I also know, the greater the struggle, the sweeter the victory. Being able to watch members conquer their fears, grow towards independence, and socialize among friends, is a gift.
When I watch our participants let loose at our social events, dances or ZamDance-a-thons, my heart could nearly burst; there’s no judgment, no hate and no stress, another gift.
For me, knowing and meeting all the UCR families, means respecting and loving each and every one of our members. While I don’t know everyone yet by name, those that I have been privileged to interact with, have made me a better person. (I'll get those names down soon, forgive me!)
I understand NOT every day is a cake-walk, we all struggle with behaviors, rigidities and strong opinions, but if we stay "miracle-minded" and seek out the positives in every situation life has to offer, we can find reasons to celebrate daily!
Please know UCR is working hard for everyone in our community by advocating at the state and local levels, planning awesome events through 2017, building a one-of-a-kind respite/enrichment program, recruiting new therapeutic teachers and securing funding to make all these things happen!
Knowing your families is a privilege, and for that I thank you. Here's to a great 2017!
In Sincere Thanksgiving,